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Bethe Correia open to boxing and bare-knuckle boxing, but closes door on MMA return: ‘It’s a psychological torture’

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One-time UFC bantamweight contender Bethe Correia retired from MMA in 2021.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Bethe Correia walked away from MMA in 2021 and is happy with her decision. Yet she’s still open to competing in other forms of combat sports.

Once challenging Ronda Rousey for UFC gold in Brazil, Correia has beaten the likes of Jessica Eye, Julie Kedzie, Sijara Eubanks and Shayna Baszler over the course of her nine-year run in MMA. She admits it’s hard to fully accept that part of her life is now over when she’s still surrounded by athletes as a gym owner in Brazil.

“I don’t think the penny has dropped yet,” Correia said on this week’s edition of Trocação Franca. “It’s still crazy. I still think at some point I’m going to get a call to book a fight [laughs].”

Correia said there’s no way she will ever return to MMA because she “couldn’t take anymore” the pressure and misery to be in a training camp.

“I felt physically well, but I think it was more of the mental [aspect],” Correia said. “A time comes when you can’t take it anymore. I think 90 percent of the athletes that stop fighting MMA do it because of the psychological pressure. We always think we can do it, that our bodies are conditioned to fight, but it’s such a psychological torture, it’s not fun anymore. When it gets to that point, MMA becomes a bit dangerous. You can have an irreversible injury.”

Correia said that training for UFC fights became “torture” after a main event loss to former champion Holly Holm in Singapore. She has since suffered several issues with her eye, twice undergoing surgery. One of her UFC fights was cancelled due to eye issues.

“Training wasn’t pleasurable anymore,” Correia said. “I couldn’t stand people demanding me high performance and doing everything perfect. I got more sad than happy [after training]. In the past, I saw it as a challenge. ‘I’ll be better tomorrow, I’ll train better tomorrow.’ Then I started going home sad, had no desire to train, and that’s bad. When you get to that point, it’s no longer pleasurable for you.

“I was afraid of injuring my eyes again and having to undergo surgery one more time. That made me worry about protecting my eyes [more than anything] during training. The problem isn’t the fight, that’s only 15 minutes. The problem is training hard every single day.”

Preparing for a MMA fight requires physical conditioning and sparring, plus knowledge and training in specific martial arts such as muay Thai, kickboxing, boxing, jiu-jitsu and wrestling, and Correia wants no part of that. She, however, is open to competing again in one of those formats “later this year.”

“I wanna compete, but not in MMA,” Correia said. “I’ve received many offers from boxing, but let’s all calm down [laughs]. I just announced [my retirement from MMA]. Who knows, maybe I’ll compete somewhere, but MMA, [I’m done] forever.”

“I’m not afraid of bare-knuckle boxing because the UFC gloves, I always chose the smaller ones,” she continued. “It’s nothing. I don’t think it changes much. I see girls leaving with their hands injured because there is nothing protecting [their knuckles], but I would also like to try traditional boxing, too. I would like that adventure. Who knows, maybe I’ll have fun on both. The best offer [wins]. I think that’s very interesting.”

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